‘Little Mermaid’ Still Swimming To $117M+ Opening Boosted By $80M Promo Campaign, Biggest For Disney Live-Action Title – Monday AM Update

MONDAY AM: Disney is holding firm to its $117.5M 4-day opening estimate on Little Mermaid after a $27.4M Sunday and a projected $22.1M Monday. Rivals still see it higher, around $119M, but Disney isn’t a studio that likes to get over their skis in their estimates. At the end of the day, Little Mermaid‘s box office course wasn’t that far off from Aladdin‘s; Ariel being more front-loaded in her previews/Friday with $38M to Aladdin’s $31.5M. Again, Aladdin posted a $30M Sunday and $25.3M Monday. Little Mermaid‘s 3-day is $95.4M to the Blue Genie’s $91.3M.

This is a very solid start for Little Mermaid despite coming in slightly lower than the anticipated $120M 4-day, a solid Memorial Day weekend to keep exhibition happy and popcorn sales flowing. The 2023 box office per Comscore through Sunday is at $3.36 billion, 28% ahead of 2022. Despite summer getting off to a slower start with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the pic’s total running cume now $305.5M through Memorial Day, 18% behind Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ $374.7M over 25 days, we have Universal/Illumination/Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros overcompensating in the marketplace with a half billion plus cume (now $561M).

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Other key marketing stunts that made Little Mermaid an event:

Star Halle Bailey performed “Part of Your World” in front of a live audience at Disneyland Resort. ABC promoted the performance during American Idol’s Disney Night as the studio’s social handles released the featurette “Halle’s Ariel.”

Disney Consumer Products as part of Disney’s 100 Wonder of Play Campaign launched with Bailey’s debut of the new Ariel doll followed by a teaser poster drop on the actress’ social media announcing a new trailer during the Oscars. Bailey and Melissa McCarthy introduced the trailer during the ceremony bumping the film to YouTube’s #1 globally trending video and trailer in the ‘Movie’ section indicating the audience’s anticipation.

On social media, there was a TikTok: A TikTok Global Branded Effect which leveraged the iconic ‘splash’ moment from “Part of Your World,” and there was a @TikTok fan Q&A held with Bailey.

Twitter had a #MermaidWeek and a weeklong takeover of @TwitterMovies featuring a ‘Thingamabob Fan Q&A’ with the cast and more. There were also custom Twitter Emojis for each primary character in the film. There was also a custom Snap National & RF lens allowing fans to become Ursula on Snapchat. Another social media stunt was the Black Swans, a Black women’s synchronized swimming team who created a performance around music from the film.

Bailey in Times Square with the massive 3D billboard:


The Little Mermaid is larger than life on the billboards in TimesSquare 🧜🏽‍♀️ So happy you could swim by today! @halle ❤️ #thelittlemermaid2023 #NYC #TimesSquare

♬ original sound – Times Square NYC

Among those studios updating their figures today: Lionsgate’s About My Father ($4.3M 3-day, $5.3M) and Legendary/Screen Gems’ The Machine ($5M 3-day, 4-day $6M) are slightly higher.

SUNDAY AM, 2nd Update: According to industry estimates, The Little Mermaid pulled in a $30m Saturday, which was the same amount of money Disney’s Aladdin pulled in on its Saturday over Memorial Day weekend; with revised outlook for the Rob Marshall directed musical at $95.5M over three days and $117.5M over four per Disney this AM.

Despite the easing of grosses, that’s not a bad thing; this just happens when the industry projects out a 4-day weekend. Rivals still see the movie doing between $121M-$123M, and it would not be shocking to see Little Mermaid resurfacing to that range which is closer to its earlier week opening projection. We’ll see how much a boost Sunday and Monday can bring. Aladdin wound up doing another $30M on its Sunday, and a $25.3M Memorial Day Monday for a $116.8M 4-day start. Imax screens were split up between Little Mermaid, which did $7M, and Fast X at night, which made $1.4M for an $8.2M running total.

EntTelligence estimates that Little Mermaid pulled in 7.4M admissions over three days and potentially 9.2M over four. Not including preview night, Little Mermaid reps 59% of this weekend’s moviegoing foot traffic so far. Average ticket price was $13.37 for all formats general, $11.19 for a child and $11.65 for a senior. Matinees (1PM-5PM) were huge repping 35%.

We’ve learned that The Little Mermaid had the biggest global promotional partner campaign for a Disney branded live-action title (not Lucasfilm or Marvel Cinematic Universe), estimated at $80M in value.

While there was no car partner, as is standard on a Marvel movie, Disney counted myriad ad partners:

–McDonald’s launched a Happy Meal program supported by an “under the sea fun” themed drive-thru.

–HSN and Disney teamed up with Regal to launch the first shoppable augmented reality experience of its kind for a collectible ticket, supported by a two-hour special.

–Mattel broke new ground with its manufacturing to create doll hair that depicts Ariel’s. The item was so hot, that the social presale drop sold out within 24 hours and was ranked No. 1 best seller in dolls across various retailers. In addition, they’ve created eight dolls to support the launch of the Mom Influencer Campaign focused on Black mothers, and launched a first-time global partnership to develop a custom TV spot.

–BOOKING.COM designed a bespoke listing for the Ultimate Little Mermaid Getaway that brought the ocean’s aesthetic to a home on land.

–ULTA partnered with two beauty brands, including Black Girl Sunscreen and Pacifica, for the first time ever and created a licensed collection of beauty products inspired by the film. Separately, Gelish created 36 film-inspired nail colors with 250k+ bottles available globally and a custom spot featured at Times Square.

–Kellogg’s made a splash at nearly 4K Walmart Stores with exclusive packs of Mermazing Berry, inspired by the film, as well as adding on-pack movie ticket offers to fan favorite cereals.

–Annie’s created a limited-edition line of snacks and pasta products featuring Ariel on-pack and a movie ticket offer on 4.1M+ packs.

–Pandora developed a custom The Little Mermaid collection with a global ad campaign over 80 markets.

–Carol’s Daughter – the first hair care brand to be on exhibit in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture- developed a limited-edition line of products accompanied by a campaign called Let Your Curls Sing with activations at mass and boutique retail, including a Movie Ticket Offer and influencer support.

The campaign for Little Mermaid fired off at D23 last year with Marshall and star Halle Bailey onstage, showing attendees a first look of “Part of Your World” and debuting the teaser trailer.

There was a big music integration that was key to the campaign, spread across theaters, music streamers, Amazon and influencers. There were digital and deluxe versions of the soundtrack in CD and vinyl. Additionally, Target will play custom content with talent and film footage in 1,800+ locations. Spotify had an exclusive playlist takeover; a Disney Hub Placement, TV & Movies Hub placement, and in-app card modal was launched. The film also took over SiriusXM’s Disney Hits channel. In addition, several social media influencers have been singing classic songs from the film.

RelishMix measured The Little Mermaid social awareness stats before the pic’s opening and it stood 36% above family live genre norms across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok at 589.5 million. Comps included Sonic the Hedgehog (577M SMU/$58.1M), Detective Pikachu (569M SMU/$54.4M) and Dumbo (281M SMU/$46M). Disney social media pages and Disney music pumped this up. There was viral reposting with a strong rate of 31:1 off 19 videos on YouTube.

Total ticket sales for all movies over the 4-day is projected to be around $207.5M, which is off 7% from last year’s Memorial Day stretch when Top Gun: Maverick opened to a record high for the holiday of $160.5M.

The chart as of Sunday AM–updating:

1) Little Mermaid (Dis) 4,320 theaters, Fri $38M, Sat $30M Sun 3-day $104M, 4-day $121M-$123M/Wk 1

2) Fast X (Uni) 4,088 (+42) theaters, Fri $6.3M (-78%), Sat $8.5M Sun $8.1M Mon $5.67M 3-day $23M (-66%), 4-day $28.6M, Total $113.6M/Wk 2

3) Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 (Dis) 3,940 (-510) theaters, Fri $5.4M (-36%) 3-day $20.6M (-36%) 4-day $26.6M, Total $306M/Wk 4

4) The Super Mario Bros Movie (Uni) 3,148 (-392) theaters, Fri $1.69M (-29%) Sat $2.4M Sun $2.1M Mon $2.06M 3-day $6.27M (-35%), 4-day $8.3M, Total $560.6M/Wk 8

5) The Machine (Leg/Sony) 2,409 theaters, Fri $2.2M Sat $1.4M Sun $1.2M Mon $915K 3-day $4.9M, 4-day $5.8M/Wk 1

6) About My Father (LG) 2,464 theaters, Fri $1.46M Sat $1.45M Sun $1.34M Mon $1M 3-day $4.25M 4-day $5.25M/Wk 1

7) Kandahar (OR/Briar) 2,105 theaters, Fri $920K Sat $745K Sun $745K Mon $590K 3-day $2.4M 4-day $3M /Wk 1

8) You Hurt My Feelings (A24) 912 theaters Fri $474K Sat $481K Sun $433K Mon $377K 3-day $1.389M 4-day $1.76M/Wk 1

9) Evil Dead Rise (NL) 921 (-1,252 theaters) Fri $300K (-57%) Sat $385K Sun $367K 3-day $1.05M (-57%) 4-day $1.3M Total $66.4M/Wk 6

10) Book Club: Next Chapter (Foc) 1,339 (-2,174) theaters, Fri $250K (-73%), Sat $320K Sun $330K Mon $270K 3-day $900K (-70%) 4-day $1.17M, Total $16.3M/Wk 3

SATURDAY AM: Disney’s The Little Mermaid is staying on its great course, maintaining that $38M Friday (which includes previews) for what is shaping up to be an estimated $104M 3-day and a 4-day between $120M-$130M. At that upper part of the threshold, the pic is the third-best opening for a movie over Memorial Day weekend.

Audience exits are great, with an “A” CinemaScore (same grade as Disney’s live-action Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King). Screen Engine/Comscore’s PostTrak notched 91% positive and a 76% definite recommend, while kids under 12 were over the moon at 92% positive and a 69% definite recommend. Natch, heavy female leaning at 68%, with 61% between 18-34, and the largest demo being millennial 25-34 year olds at 35%. Diversity demos strong across the board, with 35% Black, 25% Latino and Hispanic, 26% Caucasian and 11% Asian. Most vibrant lands for Ariel were the East, South, and South Central.

All the PLFs went to her. However, Imax auditoriums were split between the Disney pic and Fast X getting later showtimes. Combined, PLFs and Imax rep 26% of the current ongoing weekend’s gross, with 3D delivering 14%. Biggest theater was the El Capitan in Los Angeles at a huge $177K Friday gross.

Michelle Rodriguez in ‘Fast X’
Michelle Rodriguez in ‘Fast X’

Next, there could be a war for number 2 between Universal’s Fast X and Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy gang, though several studios show the former right now having the upper hand with a $22.8M second weekend, -66%, 4-day of $28.5M, and running 11-day total of $113.4M, which would be 7% behind the same frame as 2021’s F9.

And as we told you yesterday — the weekend’s counterprogramming looks awful. The lesson learned here is that if you’re going to do any kind of counterprogramming and want to make it work, it has to look better and more eventized than what you see on streaming (read the perfect storm June weekend last summer of Elvis and Black Phone). No, comedies aren’t broken. Both Machine and About My Father have their own inherent handicaps.

The first movie based on a stand-up’s routine, Legendary/Screen Gems’s The Machine starring Bert Kreischer, is aimed at blue collar crowds, while Lionsgate’s About My Father, starring big marquee comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, is aimed more at families and upscale, older moviegoers. Meaning the stand-up projects aren’t technically cannibalizing each other. They just look like something you see on Netflix. Nice try by both studios to grab an audience when everyone’s heading to the movies this weekend, and for putting movies in theaters, versus straight to streaming.

However, moviegoers already know what they want to see, and these titles, along with Briarcliff and Open Road’s Kandahar, aren’t demanding their attention. Studios are keen on that demand, and hence likely are lowering their P&A spend on these movies. It’s becoming clearer that the post-pandemic business formula for these lower-grossing films is for the studios to not lose their shirts in theatrical, and that some momentum is created to spill over into the greater ancillary market.

THE MACHINE, from left Bert Kreischer, Mark Hamill, / © Screen Gems / Courtesy Everett Collection
THE MACHINE, from left Bert Kreischer, Mark Hamill, / © Screen Gems / Courtesy Everett Collection

Machine did $2.2M on Friday at 2,409 theaters for what’s looking like a $5.2M 3-day, $6.2M 4-day. PostTrak wasn’t strong here with 78% positive, a 60% recommend, and dudes skewing 69%, with 63% between 25-44 and the largest quad 36% for the 25-34 audience. Caucasian showed up at 62%, with 18% Latino and Hispanic, 8% Black and 13% Asian/other. Pic was soft everywhere. However, the Midwest is where Kreischer played, as the pic delivered over 17% of its business there vs. a norm of 11%. AMC Burbank is the top theater in the country with $7K so far. Eeks. That said, there were sellout shows for the live preview gross of the film on Thursday. The movie cost $20M, and Sony gets a fee.

Leslie Bibb as Ellie and Sebastian Maniscalco as Sebastian in ‘About My Father.’ Photo Credit: Dan Anderson/Lionsgate
Leslie Bibb as Ellie and Sebastian Maniscalco as Sebastian in ‘About My Father.’ Photo Credit: Dan Anderson/Lionsgate

About My Father is seeing a $1.46M Friday, with a 4-day at $5M at 2,464 theaters. Who doesn’t want to see Maniscalco’s life story on the screen? I was the first in line to watch this, and he killed at CinemaCon 2022, when Lionsgate had the stand-up host their presentation. However, it’s clear, despite the difference in the story, the pic looks like Meet the Parents all over again, and everyone has seen that. Audiences who showed up gave it a B+ CinemaScore, with PostTrak not that far behind at 80% positive, 51% recommend. Women were 54% dominant, with a very older skewing audience at 52% over 45. The biggest demo was over 55 at 34%. Moviegoer make-up was 62% Caucasian, 14% Latino and Hispanic, 10% Black, and 13% Asian/other. About My Father‘s only good area was the East, with 23% of the gross coming from there, vs. a norm of 19%. Cinemark Palace in Boca Raton was the best movie theater with around $5K yesterday, which tells you how old this comedy is playing.

Gerard Butler movie 'Kandahar' gets new trailer
Gerard Butler and Navid Negahban in ‘Kandahar’

The Open Road/Briarcliff release of Gerard Butler’s Kandahar posted $920K yesterday, for what’s looking to be a $2.5M 3-day and 4-day of $3.1M at 2,105 theaters. Like Liam Neeson and Nic Cage, Butler just has a plethora of these meat and potato action films, and they’re no longer marquee draws. Theatrical is used simply to spur the downstream market. B+ CinemaScore, PostTrak at 75%, and a 36% recommend, with 61% guys showing up and 59% between 18-34, and 25-34 year olds the biggest quad at 34%. Diversity demos were 59% Caucasian, 12% Black, 11% Latino and Hispanic, and 17% Asian/other. Kandahar played soft everywhere but best in the West and South. The Regal Fresno saw the best gross on Friday at around $3K.

Tobias Menzies, Nicole Holofcener and Julia Louis Dreyfus of ‘You Hurt My Feelings’ at the Deadline Studio during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival at the Hotel Park City on January 22, 2023 in Park City, Utah.
Tobias Menzies, Nicole Holofcener and Julia Louis Dreyfus of ‘You Hurt My Feelings’ at the Deadline Studio during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival at the Hotel Park City on January 22, 2023 in Park City, Utah.

Nicole Holofcener’s You Hurt My Feelings did $474K on Friday, for an estimated $1.3M 3-day and $1.6M at 912 theaters. Exits were 75% positive, with a 42% recommend. Oddly a guy skewing film at 58% for this Julia Louis Dreyfus sophisticated romantic comedy. The 25-44 bunch repped 56% with the 25-34 year olds also the most to show up at 34%, which is also a headscratcher. The film just feels older and a throwback to what Woody Allen use to do. Diversity demos were 61% Caucasian, 16% Latino and Hispanic, 10% Black and 13% Asian/other. You Hurt My Feelings played best in the East and West.  The AMC Lincoln Square, of course, is the top of the heap for the movie at around $6K yesterday.

Chart as of Saturday AM:

1) Little Mermaid (Dis) 4,320 theaters, Fri $38M, 3-day $104M, 4-day $120-$130M/Wk 1

2) Fast X (Uni) 4,088 (+42) theaters, Fri $6.3M (-78%), 3-day $22.8M (-66%), 4-day $28.4M, Total $113.4M/Wk 2

3) Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 (Dis) 3,940 (-510) theaters, Fri $5.4M (-36%) 3-day $20.6M (-36%) 4-day $26.6M, Total $306M/Wk 4

4) The Super Mario Bros Movie (Uni) 3,148 (-392) theaters, Fri $1.65M (-29%) 3-day $6.2M (-35%), 4-day $8.2M, Total $560.8M/Wk 8

5) The Machine (Leg/Sony) 2,409 theaters, Fri $2.2M 3-day $5.2M, 4-day $6.2M/Wk 1

6) About My Father (LG) 2,464 theaters, Fri $1.46M 3-day $4.1M 4-day $5M/Wk 1

7) Kandahar (OR/Briar) 2,105 theaters, Fri $920K 3-day $2.5M 4-day $3.1M /Wk 1

8) You Hurt My Feelings (A24) 912 theaters Fri $474K 3-day $1.3M 4-day $1.6M/Wk 1

9) Evil Dead Rise (NL) 921 (-1,252 theaters) Fri $300K (-57%) 3-day $1M (-57%) 4-day $1.3M Total $66.4M/Wk 6

10) Book Club: Next Chapter (Foc) 1,339 (-2,174) theaters, Fri $250K (-73%), 3-day $910K (-70%) 4-day $1.18M, Total $16.3M/Wk 3

FRIDAY LATE AFTERNOON: As we told you, once a Disney princess film gets momentum, well, it’s wandering free at the box office. Such is the case for The Little Mermaid, which after $10.3M in previews is seeing $38M for Friday, which will result in a $105M 3-day, and a $125M 4-day opening at 4,320 theaters per sources.

Again, a great result for a predominantly female-skewing tentpole; it’s the smaller movies aimed at women that the marketplace is still on the fence about. Little Mermaid‘s success here with female moviegoers also paves the way for another big summer pic: Warner Bros’ Barbie at the end of July.

Among the top openings for Memorial Day weekend: Top Gun: Maverick ($160.5M last year), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($153M, 2007), but then there’s also Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which never had its Thursday opening day of $25M rolled into its four day, so the Friday-Monday take for that film is $126.9M, with a 5-day Thursday-Monday haul of $152M back in 2008. At that pecking order, Little Mermaid is bound to be the third best 4-day Memorial Day debut. Hands down, Little Mermaid buries Aladdin‘s 4-day start over the holiday of $116.8M to become the best for a live-action take on a Disney toon.

That preview figure of $10.3M is rolled into Friday’s figure and also counts $850K from the special Wednesday fan showtimes. Overall, Ariel’s preview number is the seventh-best ever for a PG- or G-rated title.

After Little Mermaid, May tentpole holdovers Universal’s Fast X and Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 give the holiday weekend a spine. However, the counterprogramming– Legendary/Screen Gems’ The Machine, Lionsgate’s Sebastian Maniscalco comedy About My Father and Open Road/Briarcliff’s Gerard Butler movie, Kandahar, are for nothing. We’ll make sense of these pics’ fates as they make their way through the weekend. See numbers below.

1) Little Mermaid (Dis) 4,320 theaters, Fri $38M, 3-day $105M, 4-day $125M/Wk 1

2) Fast X (Uni) 4,088 (+42) theaters, Fri $6M (-79%), 3-day $21.8M (-67%), 4-day $27.2M, Total $112.1M/Wk 2 (read the review)

3) Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 (Dis) 3,940 (-510) theaters, Fri $5.4M (-36%) 3-day $20.6M (-36%) 4-day $26.6M, Total $306M/Wk 4 (read the review)
James Gunn’s MCU swan song will cross the $300M mark in its 24th day of theatrical release on Sunday. GOTG 2 hit that number in 17 days. The first Guardians took 44 days to the three-century mark stateside.

4) The Super Mario Bros Movie (Uni) 3,148 (-392) theaters, Fri $1.65M (-29%) 3-day $6.2M (-35%), 4-day $8.2M, Total $560.8M/Wk 8 (read the review)

‘The Machine’
‘The Machine’

5) The Machine (Leg/Sony) 2,409 theaters, Fri $2.4M 3-day $6.3M, 4-day $7.8M/Wk 1
The is right where Sony was expecting this service deal to come in. Critics are asking themselves why they sat through it at 33%, but comedian Bert Kreischer has a fanbase at 96%. (Read the review.)

'About My Father' Review
Sebastian Maniscalco and Robert De Niro in ‘About My Father’

6) About My Father (LG) 2,464 theaters, Fri $1.3M 3-day $3.8M 4-day $4.7M/ Wk 1
Currently this is slightly under what Lionsgate was expecting. One would think the Sebastian Maniscalco crowd would be showing up. Critics don’t get it at 30% Rotten, audiences do get the joke at 75%. (Read the review)

7) Kandahar (OR/Briar) 2,105 theaters, Fri $550K 3-day $1.64M 4-day $2M /Wk 1
The meat-and-potatoes action movie is play for guys with the plan to get this pic straight into its ancillaries, where it will make bank. Remember this happened with the Lionsgate/STX Guy Ritchie title Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre (which opened to $3.1M in March and ended at $6.4M after 21 days in theaters). Critics are at 43% Rotten, audiences better at 75%. (Read the review.)

RELATED: MoviePass Is Back; Julia Louis-Dreyfus Stars In ‘You Hurt My Feelings’ – Specialty Preview

You Hurt My Feelings
Julia Louis-Dreyfus in ‘You Hurt My Feelings’

8) You Hurt My Feelings (A24) 912 theaters, Fri $300K 3-day $890K 4-day $1.1M /Wk 1
The upscale comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and directed by Nicole Holofcener generated lots of laughs at its Sundance premiere. Rotten Tomatoes critics are 95% certified fresh on it, but RT audiences not so much at 57%. (Read the review.)

EXCLUSIVE, late Thursday PM: Sources are telling us that Disney’s Rob Marshall-directed The Little Mermaid is singing some high notes tonight of $10M+ in previews. Should that figure exceed $10.8M it will rep the 6th highest preview performance among PG and G rated titles in motion picture history. Tracking pegged the Halle Bailey movie at a $120M 4-day start over Memorial Day.

Remember, that preview cash is made up of Wednesday 6PM fan screenings at 500 premium screen theaters and early shows which began at 3PM today.

Even more impressive, Little Mermaid‘s preview figure bests that of Disney’s live action take of animated toon, Aladdin, from Memorial Day weekend 2019; that Will Smith pic doing $7M before grossing $31.3M on its first Friday for a $116.8M 4-day. Little Mermaid also easily beats the $2.3M previews (8PM start) of 2015’s Cinderella, which had a $23M first day, $67.8M start. However, Little Mermaid is swimming slower than Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast from 2017 which did $16.3M, for a $63.7M Friday and $174.7M opening.

Female skewing movies, like Twilight for instance, often get a bad rep for being front-loaded. However, once a mass-appealing Disney princess movie fires up from its opening, it doesn’t let go. Beauty and the Beast only eased around -2% between its Thursday previews/Friday and Saturday business. Frozen 2 was +19% over a similar period while Aladdin, which starred Princess Jasmine, only eased -4% between its Thursday night/Friday and Saturday.

Though critics on Little Mermaid waned to 68% fresh, audiences on Rotten Tomatoes are very happy at 95%

We’re just getting started here.

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